Visiting Hours in the ER

I sit at my husband’s bedside in the Emergency Room (ER) at Riverside Walter Reed Hospital looking at his diaphoretic, grayish face, obviously in pain.  Has he had a Myocardial Infarction (MI) or not?  I am allowed to sit here because I am a nurse and I work for the hospital. I also think our doctor asked the ER nurses to let me stay. 

They let me in after he is transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), and again I am allowed to stay.  I sit in the corner as quietly and as unobtrusively as possible, afraid that I will be asked to leave, and then what will I do?  He is still having pain despite the Nitro drip and he looks so bad. 

He is then transferred to the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) at Riverside Regional Medical Center about twenty-seven miles away; I try very hard to comply with the visiting hours, but it’s hard to leave him.  The second day in CCU, a Sunday, I ask if I can just sit in the room if I am quiet.  The nurses, thankfully, said yes.  He may have to have open heart surgery tomorrow, and I know all of the thing that can happen, so I want to be able to spend this time with him.  Will it be all of the time we have together ever?

What are appropriate visiting hours?  Is it fair to assume the patient is better without family by their side during hospitalization?  What research has been done regarding the impact of family visiting and recovery?  Does the family sometimes have important information that would be helpful to the physicians and nurses caring for the patients?  Can they sometimes get the patient to eat when the staff fail?  We call our maternity service Family Centered Care.  Is the only person who needs a family to support them a newborn infant?  If we are providing family centered care shouldn’t that apply to all of our patients?  Is the time that we prevent families from being with their loved ones some of the last time that they have together?  Who is going to care for this patient when they go home?  Would the care-giver be more comfortable and qualified if they were allowed to spend more time with the patient when they are in the hospital?  Would we as nurses provide the care-givers with more information if they were with the patient more, and were more involved with their care?

There are no simple answers to these questions, but walking in the shoes of the patient and family certainly gave me pause to reconsider the rules that we make, and the environment that this creates.  Maybe we should consider radically restructuring the environment to make it a home in which we care for patients.  Or at least reconsider some of the rules we have made and live up to our name of hospital(able)!

P.S.  My husband did have an MI, but did not need open heart surgery.  He recuperated well, and received wonderful care from everyone at Riverside Walter Reed Hospital and Riverside Regional Medical Center.  Thanks to each and every person who cared for him,

Jane Dresselhaus, MSN, RN

Director, Nursing Administration and Support Services, Riverside Regional Medical Center


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